On the other side, CC Sabathia was sharp for stretches of the game despite making some mistakes in the zone and battling his mechanics sporadically throughout his outing. But he faded late as he neared 100 pitches. It was a clear case of Boston taking advantage of some obvious mistake pitches from the big left-hander.
Beckett came to the ballpark with his good stuff, and he didn't have trouble finding the strike zone. So, why did he struggle? Let's give some credit to a relentless Yankees lineup. When they had to work Beckett and stay patient, they accomplished that. When they saw openings to jump on him early in the count they were able to do that as well.
Historically, the Yankees have had success against Beckett by getting to him on first-pitch fastballs, something they were able to do early and often on Sunday night. Throughout his outing, there were far too many aggressive swings and it appeared he was getting much too predictable with his fastball early in counts. He was never able to really get his curveball going, but that may have been due to the aggressive New York hitters.
It wasn't enough to earn them a victory, but the Yankees' approach at the plate should show that there is not one correct way for an offense to attack a game. They were patient when they needed to be, fouling off tough pitches and taking close offerings just off the plate. Beckett could have been better, but New York created plenty of problems for him.
Every pitcher has a mechanical issue they need to keep tabs on. For Sabathia, it's his back leg he needs to keep in check. Even in spring training, that's what the Yankees coaching staff pointed to as the root of his struggles. Sabathia drifts out of the balance point in his delivery, and gets a big push off his back leg. When he's going badly, quite often you'll see that back leg bend and buckle a little too much. When that happens, he has difficulty staying tall and getting that big downward angle toward the plate.
If you can't get on top of the ball and create a downward plane, it's becomes very difficult to get any sort of sharp tilt on the slider and even more difficult to get the fastball down in the zone. Many will say that Sabathia ran out of gas in the late innings, but the reason he actually struggled is because when a pitcher gets even a little fatigued some of those lingering mechanical issues become magnified. That was the case for Sabathia on Sunday night.
• Note to American League pitchers: Derek Jeter is hunting first-pitch fastballs. Jeter has always liked to jump on pitches early in the count, but last year we saw him jump on them even more than usual. He continued that trend on Opening Night in Boston with some very aggressive hacks, including a line drive single up the middle off Boston reliever Ramon Ramirez. Jeter has only gotten smarter as he's gotten older, and he clearly understands that pitchers will continue to pound him hard inside to see if he can still catch up. That's the reality of being an older player. Obviously, he has shown zero signs of slowing down, but continuing to jump on -- and drive -- those early fastballs is going to force some change in strategy to the way AL pitchers attack the shortstop.
• Managers are still learning about their new players at this stage of the season. What did Joe Girardi learn about Chan Ho Park on Sunday night? His style of pitching may not be all that conducive to pitching in Fenway Park. Park likes to attack hitters with high, riding fastballs and he stuck with that mentality against Boston. He was burned by both Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia on the high fastball, with Pedroia leaving the yard. Neither ball was crushed, but when you come up in the zone at around 91 mph with the fastball, you are asking for fly balls. In Fenway, it's no secret what kind of trouble that can cause for a pitcher.
• Boston fans have to be wondering what version of David Ortiz they'll be seeing in 2010. At first glance, Ortiz looks more athletic and able to get himself into a better hitting position at the plate. He looks to be in more of a crouch like he was in his best years, giving him a stronger base to hit from and getting his lower half more involved.
• Adrian Beltre can hit the high fastball. If the Yankees take any lesson away from Sunday's action, it is that one about Beltre. The Boston third baseman had a good pass at a CC Sabathia high fastball early in the game, a pitch he narrowly missed taking out of the park in center field. Later in the game, David Robertson went right at Beltre with a high fastball on the first pitch and he jumped on it. In that situation, it seemed only natural that Robertson would have started off Beltre with his outstanding, plus breaking ball. Regardless of the pitch selection in that sixth-inning at-bat, New York will have to be careful with the elevated fastball to Beltre, especially in Fenway Park.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.